Last week, I was in conversation with a colleague about whether to hire a new digital media manager. I said, “My intuition is to sign the agreement, but I’m worried that she’ll skip out the minute something better comes along.”

“What is the difference between intuition and worry,” he asked. That posed an interesting distinction that we all tend to ignore.

Intuition can be defined as the way we translate our experiences into our actions. In its essence, intuition is about pattern recognition. In other words, the brain attempts to guide us to action based on our past experiences related to the present obstacle or opportunity. Worry can be defined as a collection of thoughts about a situation or condition that produce a sense of unease or anxiety about possible outcomes. Worry is our brain working to keep us safe and comfortable. But neither of those definitions are much help when you’re about to make a significant decision. Effective decision making comes down to examining the thoughts in your head and separating the intuition from the worry and relying on the pattern recognition rather than the irrational thoughts.

In my hiring situation, my thoughts ranged from,“She can really take our web presence to the next level,” to “I remember the time that guy I hired was taking the money, but not getting any results.” As with so many decisions, trying to sort out all these thoughts between intuition and worry became confusing and stressful. But then I thought about whether Ir eally knew what I was looking for.  The bottom line of this was that I had not defined clearly enough about the services and expertise I really needed along with a retention strategy that would keep this person on board for an extended time.

My presence of mind guided me to separate intuition from worry. Once I did that, the decision became clear. The next time you’re struggling with a perplexing decision, ask yourself whether you’re totally clear on the desired outcome. If you are, then be sure to place more value on the intuitive thoughts. The best decision makers trust their intuition, but they always make sure they’re clear about what needs to be decided.  

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